Saturday, April 20, 2013

          Committed to Diversity: Elizabeth Aakhus '11, Serving the Rural Poor

          As a teenager growing up in Bakersfield, Elizabeth Aakhus ’11 was determined to get as far away from the Central Valley as possible. “I knew that if I didn’t work hard, I wouldn’t get out,” she says. For the majority of her friends and classmates, this was the case, and it was nearly the case for her.

          In her senior year of high school, she was suspended; her offense was talking back to a school police officer and refusing to follow instructions. The way Aakhus sees it now, this experience was the exception rather than the rule.

          “I got the suspension removed from my record because my parents advocated for me,” she says. “That was when I saw the gross disparities in how schools mete out punishment, especially to people who do not have someone fighting for them. This experience was a key factor in my decision to become a public interest lawyer.”

          Aakhus enrolled at NYU and went on to UC Hastings, where she took advantage of many hands-on opportunities. She joined two student organizations that offered direct client contact, the General Assistance Advocacy Project and Homeless Legal Services, and enrolled in the Civil Justice Clinic. “In the clinic, I learned how to work one-on-one with clients,” she says, “but more importantly, I learned how challenging it can be for people to gain access to lawyers, especially people who are living below the poverty line.”

          In 2011, she was awarded the Ralph Santiago Abascal Fellowship, a yearlong award given to a UC Hastings student to pursue antipoverty and civil rights work. Aakhus joined the Delano office of California Legal Rural Assistance (CLRA), an organization dedicated to improving the lives of the state’s rural poor, where she is now a staff attorney. She focused her fellowship on education equity issues, specifically on the disproportionate impact that school discipline has on students of color.

          “My challenge has been to make sure that parents and youth know their rights,” she says. “Education is such an important way to counteract the effects of poverty, and it’s gratifying to help kids stay on track and have opportunities to advance.”

          Read more UC Hastings Magazine.

          Go to News Archive

          Share this Story

          Share via Facebook
          Share via TwitterShare via EmailPrint Friendly Version

          Other Recent Stories/ RSS

          Tuesday, February 07, 2017

          Civil Rights Lawyer Zahra Billoo ’09 Is Fighting President Trump’s “Travel Ban”

          As leader of a Council on American-Islamic Relations chapter, she is standing up for the rights of Muslim Americans in court and in the media.
          Monday, February 06, 2017

          Hadar Aviram assumes the presidency of the Western Society of Criminology

          Congratulations to UC Hastings Professor Hadar Aviram, who is set to begin her term as the president of the Western Society of Criminology.
          Wednesday, February 01, 2017

          Statement from Dean Faigman: Deans Letter to California Supreme Court re California Bar Exam

          Today a group of 20 deans of ABA-accredited California law schools submitted a letter to the California Supreme Court, calling upon it to “exercise its legal jurisdiction over the California State Bar to adjust its scoring methods to bring them in line with the nation’s at large.”
          Wednesday, February 01, 2017

          Thinkers & Doers: January 2017

          THE RESISTANCE -- Haiku for Law Students -- Judge Gorsuch’s jurisprudence -- A Populist Crusade Against Corporate Greed -- THE MOST READ HBR ARTICLE OF ALL TIME -- Mom bias at work -- Will Trump’s refugee "ban" survive? -- Alumni recording artists -- and much more
          Monday, January 30, 2017

          Statement from Dean Faigman: President Trump's Executive Order re Travel

          The UC Hastings’ seal carries the words fiat justicia -- Let Justice Be Done. This motto is not a hollow promise; it is who we are and what we do.
          Go to News Archive